Sweden has expressed its interest in collaborating with Bangladesh in the field of information technology (IT). In a meeting held in Stockholm, Håkan Jevrell, the Swedish State Secretary for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, conveyed this interest to Md Shahriar Alam, the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
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During the meeting, Jevrell commended Bangladesh for its achievements in IT and its efforts in climate change adaptation. Sweden expressed its desire to collaborate with Bangladesh on the development of the IT sector and the transition towards green technologies.
Bilateral meeting at Stockholm
Recognising Asia as the engine of growth and acknowledging Bangladesh’s high economic growth, Sweden also expressed its willingness to strengthen trade and investment relations with Bangladesh in light of evolving geopolitical developments.
State Minister Shahriar Alam highlighted the Bangladesh government’s plans and initiatives for digitalisation. He suggested close cooperation between the two countries in the areas of software technology, 4iR-enabled agriculture, and human resources development. The State Secretary of Sweden expressed their appreciation towards Bangladesh for providing refuge and support to forcibly displaced Rohingyas.
In response, the state minister expressed gratitude to Sweden for its ongoing development cooperation and support to Bangladesh, particularly in improving living conditions for the poor and promoting gender equality. Additionally, the State Minister expressed gratitude to the Swedish government for its humanitarian aid extended to the forcibly displaced Rohingyas and its commitment to finding a political resolution to the crisis. Furthermore, both parties engaged in discussions regarding potential collaborations on climate change at bilateral and multilateral levels.
The meeting was attended by Mehdi Hasan, the Bangladesh Ambassador to Sweden, and Kazi Russel Pervez, the Director General (West Europe & EU) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others.
Gateway to Sweden-Bangladesh ICT collaboration opened last year
Last year, on Monday, April 25, 2022, a meeting between Alexandra Berg von Linde, the Ambassador of Sweden, and Russell T Ahmed, the President of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), took place at the Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka. The discussion centred on the collaboration between Sweden and Bangladesh in the ICT sector, highlighting the potential benefits for both countries, particularly leveraging Bangladesh’s cost-competitive human resources.
The Ambassador acknowledged the significant progress made by Bangladesh’s ICT industry in recent years, particularly in frontier technologies, and suggested promoting its success stories on an international scale. She expressed her wish for collaboration between the private sectors of both countries in the ICT sector, emphasising that it would serve the mutual interests of Sweden and Bangladesh.
Russell T Ahmed, President of BASIS, proposed the exchange of delegations between the two countries and extended an invitation to suitable counterparts from Sweden to participate in SoftExpo 2022. This would provide them with first-hand experience of Bangladesh’s transformation into a leading country in frontier technologies. Ahmed expressed the intention to foster collaboration between Bangladesh and Sweden, stating, “Our aim is to collaborate and explore opportunities for promoting the Bangladesh ICT industry to Sweden and Nordic countries.”
During the meeting, Ahmed highlighted that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had declared ICT as “The Product of the Year” for 2022, underscoring the importance of promoting the ICT industry in international forums to showcase the readiness of local companies. Furthermore, Ahmed highlighted that the Executive Council of BASIS is currently prioritizing seven key areas for advancing the ICT industry. These areas include HR capacity building, developing the local market, boosting export volume, nurturing a vibrant startup ecosystem, promoting the industry, facilitating access to finance, and formulating policies to foster the growth of intangible assets.
Ambassador Alexandra Berg von Linde echoed the importance of rebranding and redefining Bangladesh’s ICT sector in Sweden to facilitate greater engagement and collaboration. She expressed optimism that ICT entrepreneurs from Sweden would be intrigued to participate in BASIS SoftExpo 2022, showcasing the opportunities and potential of the Bangladesh ICT industry.
The meeting was attended by Anna Svantesson, First Secretary of Political & Commercial Affairs at the Embassy of Sweden, Syed Mohammad Kamal, Director at BASIS, and Enamul Hafiz Latifee, Joint Secretary (Research Fellow) at BASIS.
Trade study of Bangladesh and Sweden
Bangladesh holds significant importance as a growing trade partner for Sweden in Southeast Asia. The bilateral relations between Sweden and Bangladesh have deep historical roots, with development cooperation playing a central role. However, as both countries have evolved, the relationship has diversified and expanded in various areas. Trade and investments, although starting from a relatively low level, have experienced positive developments.
Currently, Bangladesh accounts for 0.3% of Sweden’s total imports. Machinery and apparatuses constitute the most crucial export products to Bangladesh, representing approximately 40% of exports in 2021. Swedish exports to Bangladesh reached their peak in 2007, totaling SEK 2,073 million, largely driven by investments in the telecommunications sector. Following this phase, Swedish exports have stabilized at around SEK 541 million in 2021, demonstrating a steady increase over the past few years.
In contrast, there has been a consistent increase in Swedish imports from Bangladesh, demonstrating a positive trend. Total imports from Bangladesh amounted to SEK 5,401 million in 2021, reflecting a rise from the previous year’s figure of SEK 4,801 million. It’s important to note that registered trade statistics underestimate import figures, as Bangladeshi products intended for the Swedish market are often offloaded in other European Union countries.
There is significant potential for expanding trade between Sweden and Bangladesh. Sweden’s positive image as a country known for sustainable, innovative, and green businesses plays a crucial role in promoting Swedish industries in Bangladesh, particularly in energy, environment, paper pulp, and leather products. Moreover, there are opportunities for growth in trade relations in areas such as textiles, ready-made garments, ICT, and pharmaceuticals. Collaborating on energy-efficient, low-emission green technologies for the readymade garments sector can help increase sustainable textile manufacturing in Bangladesh, making the country more competitive globally. Additionally, Swedish companies can leverage opportunities in Bangladesh’s rapidly growing digital sector, including e-commerce, e-governance, digitalization, and online labour.
Swedish exporters, importers, and investors interested in engaging with Bangladesh are encouraged to contact Business Sweden – The Swedish Trade and Invest Council in New Delhi, which also covers the Bangladesh market. The Swedish Embassy in Dhaka is also available as a point of entry for such inquiries. Contact information is provided in the Trade with Sweden section for further assistance.